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Coconut water may be rich in potassium, which is very beneficial to health, but it can also be quite harmful.
In a study dubbed “Death by Coconut,” Justin Hakimian, MD, and his team at the Department of Cardiology, New York Hospital Queens, present the case of a man aged 42 years who experienced unusual heart rhythms after taking plenty of coconut water. This was due to excessively high levels of potassium in the coconut water.
This man spent much of his time playing tennis at temperatures above 90° F, and took 8 11-ounce bottles of coconut water. All of a sudden, he felt light-headed before losing consciousness. When brought to the emergency room, it was discovered that he had a low heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and was totally disoriented.
Dangers of too much potassium
The blood requires a delicate balance of potassium so as to help the heart, as well as other muscles, to work efficiently. As such, consuming an excessive amount in a fairly short period of time can end up being disastrous, and possibly, fatal changes in heart rhythm.
Besides the life-threatening heart rhythm changes, increased potassium levels can also lead to ventricular filtration, an emergency state whereby the lower parts of the heart flutter with an accelerated speed instead of pumping blood. If not treated promptly, this condition might cause your heart to stop beating, leading to death.
Hence, according to the Institute of Medicine, the sufficient potassium daily intake should be at least 4,700 mg. However, it’s not clear how much potassium can be consumed safely, even though it’s known that high amounts can be deadly.
You can increase amounts of potassium as a result of excess intake, decreased excretion, or a combination of the two.
Nonetheless, the excessively high levels of potassium are particularly dangerous in the case of some medical condition, or some specific drug therapy that further elevate the levels of potassium.
Here are additional factors that may elevate the levels of potassium:
The man whose story is captured here was discovered to have developed muscle tissue breakdown – rhabdomyolysis. The condition is attributed to muscle exertion following an endurance exercise, exercise in hot, humid conditions, as well as strenuous exercise.
The condition results in kidney damage. The doctors pointed out that the patient had ingested 5, 500 mg of potassium in the 8 servings of coconut water. As such, the coconut in them added to the potassium generated by the muscle fibers after the lengthy tennis matches, which led to his hospitalization.
Fortunately, this man’s health was restored with a temporary pacemaker, plus three days in the hospital. Thus, the function of his heart was normalized, the muscles and kidneys started to function efficiently again, and the potassium levels were controlled.
Individuals with heart complications and kidney diseases should minimize their of coconut water, particularly after severe dehydration. This is because the concentration and electrolytes in the coconut water aren’t in a perfect balance, in a way that it can rehydrate the body properly in such cases.
Conversely, coconut water is highly beneficial for most people. It quenches thirst, rehydrates the body, and provides high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Likewise, coconut water effectively treats high blood pressure.
Therefore, you need to limit the intake of the drink to a couple of servings per day to enjoy its incredible benefits. In addition, non-athletes are advised to drink plain water as the best drink during and after exercising.